◗ In border communities of Badagry, narcotics, hallucinogen mixed with palm wine is the new rave
Lovers of palm wine, resident or frequenting joints anywhere along the Badagry border communities in Lagos are unwittingly consuming doses of drugs notably stimulants, narcotics and hallucinogen.
Palm wine sellers are indulging in the dubious act of diluting the natural wine with psychedelic substances as a way of increasing the drink’s potency in order to boost patronage. This sharp practice has given rise to palm wine-based potions dubbed Zombie wine by drinkers.
Alarmingly, the drinks’ reported side-effects range from extreme stupor to a state of coma. According to the findings of a weeklong investigation by Saturday Sun, most palm wine sellers dilute their product with Tramadol, a prescriptive opiod analgesia. Others use Gegemu, a local fruit whose botanical name is Datura stramonium, proven to contain hallucinogenic properties that can result in hospitalization and death when abused. Others simply ferment their wine with stimulants such as Indian hemp.
A smoky kiosk with a “Drink Natural Palm Wine,” signboard, served several variants of palm wine-derived drinks such as “Awopa Roots” and Palm wine “Agunmu.” Saturday Sun witnessed first-hand how palm wine-based drinks are brewed.
The production of the concoction started with a big jar half-filled with undiluted palm wine. Next, a large sachet of highly concentrated ethanol was poured into the wine and mixed. Other ingredients–notably herbs–were added. The mixture was then left to ferment before it was transferred into the refrigerator. Few hours later, the mixture was served chilled to customers.
Victims of Zombie wine
A number of people sleeping on a concrete pavement at the adjacent kiosk caught the attention of this reporter. Upon enquiry, it turned out they were sleeping as a result of the effect of the so-called Zombie palm wine.
Some one-time consumers of the mixed palm wine told Saturday Sun their experience. They identified two common after-consumption effects as hallucinations and stomach discomfort.
Dosu Jugunou, an unskilled labourer at the Check Point area of Badagry road recalled: “It was a chilled palm wine and I enjoyed it at first because it was a sunny afternoon. As sweet as it was I felt a little burning sensation in my throat. But I gulped the whole fluid anyway. Shortly afterwards, I was dizzy and in 20 minutes, I staggered away from the joint.”
When he awoke the following morning, he found to his embarrassment that he had slept in the open. “I was woken by local government officials that had mistaken me for a dead man. I was ashamed of myself”.
Asked if he had revisited the joint since the incident, Jugunou said: “Never. I do pass there but I would never drink there again.”
Ojo Agbii, a bricklayer from Osun State also narrated his ordeal to Saturday Sun. “I live in Ajara. The palm wine you see around here have been polluted,” he began. “There was a day I drank a two-litre worth of palm wine. I stooled throughout the day apart from having headache. I eventually had to go to a hospital for treatment.”
A booming business
At a crowded shack at the Seme border, where youths between the age bracket of 17 and 21 converged, business was brisk for Mama Nkechi who sells palm wine in plastic cans.
When approached by Saturday Sun, she exploded: “Yes, I am the seller, what happened? If you want to drink, drink. I do not have time for storytelling. You do your business and I do my own. We are here to serve our customers. Whatever we mix with palm wine is not your problem. Every business has its secrets. What I put into the palmy is best known to me because I am here to make money. After all, I am not selling poison.”
Mama Nkechi who also sells “bush” meat and cigarettes claimed she makes a daily profit of at least N20, 000. “On a good day, I make up to 20k. All the uniformed officers around here know me and some of them are my customers,” she bragged.
A customer at the joint said the palmy drinks make him sleep. He also added that it enhances his libido. He is less concerned about the nature of substances mixed with the natural wine. “Let me die enjoying myself. Something must kill man,” he asserted.
However, Dr Sunday Adepoju, a director at a private laboratory in Lagos sounded a warning. “Diluted palm wine is polluted palm wine,” he declared. “Adding foreign bodies to it has made it to lose its natural form and drinking unapproved medicine is like signing one’s death warrant. We only hope that government will do something fast about it before it spreads round the state.”
Mr Fagoroye Fayemi, a chemist, also raised an alarm about the danger of indiscriminate consumption of polluted palm wine. “People are knowingly or unknowingly drinking their way to death; the consumption would have, if not immediate but future consequences on the consumers,” he avowed.